20 Minutes a Day Workout Schedule

For workout Wednesday, this week I thought I would share what my workouts look like in a week. You may be surprised to learn that I don't spend hours in gym or obsess over my workouts. I want to stay healthy and fit, I enjoy running and sometimes I am training for a race.

I do the workouts that support my lifestyle, preferences and goals. I want to avoid injury, keep improving and stay healthy. For me sometimes that just looks like 20 minutes a day (excluding an endurance run if I am training for a race, which of course, is longer than 20 minutes). I don't kill myself in the gym. I try to stay active and healthy. 

I am a fan of the 20 second work/10 second rest then repeat for four minutes protocol. I group two exercises together and alternate between them for four minutes. I'll do five of these mini circuits for a total of 20 minutes. I often switch up the exercises depending on how I am progressing, my goals and just to keep things interesting. This is just an example. Any good program will vary, progress and grow as you do. 

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Coach Lea

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Outsmart the Food Companies to Make Healthier Choices

Most food marketers want to trick and deceive you. They don't care about your health, they just want you to buy their food. It's their job, of course, to sell and market food. I would say you can't blame the food companies for wanting to make money if it wasn't so blatantly deceiving and actively hurting people. It is just wrong.

Well-meaning people make nutrition decisions based on food marketing packaging and are deceived into buying less-than healthy food that they believe to be healthy. Most of the time these people are just trying to make the best decisions for their families, they don't have a lot of time or resources to dig deeper into nutrition, so they take it at face value. Food marketers are two-faced. Their marketing says one thing, but the nutrition label and ingredients list usually reveals the truth.

If we wonder why so many people are having trouble meeting their health and fitness goals one factor could be misleading food labels. People think they are making healthier choices, when they are not.

Here are a few marketing labels to look out for in the grocery store to make sure you are making smart healthy choices. I'm not suggesting that you should never eat a morsel of unhealthy food again (balance is important), I just want you to be aware that food labels can be misleading. The good news is that the truth of these deceiving labels can be uncovered by reading the nutrition label and ingredient list.
 

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OUTSMART THE FOOD COMPANIES TO MAKE HEALTHIER CHOICES

Fat-Free

When a package has a fat free label, it may be true that the product is free of fat, but it doesn't mean it is any healthier than a product containing fat. Most of the time, when fat is removed they add sugar so it still tastes good. Replacing fat with sugar is not a healthy choice. It's often a better choice to eat the full fat version of the product. Read the nutrition label and consider the calorie, sugar and fat intake the make the best decision.

Organic

It can be a healthy choice to buy organic vegetables, but just because a product boasts an organic label does not automatically make it healthy. Organic processed foods can be packed with fat, sugar and a ton of unhealthy calories. Processed organic foods are still unhealthy processed foods. For best results choose whole foods whenever possible.

Gluten-Free

Unless you are allergic to gluten, there is no benefit to eating gluten-free foods. They will not magically help you lose weight and they are not healthier than their gluten counterparts. In fact they often have less fiber, making them a bit unhealthier. Gluten-free has turned into a buzz word that marketers slap on their products to make them seem healthier. When I see a gluten-free label on a bag of marshmallows, I shake my head. Marshmallows are pure sugar and sugar never had gluten. My Celiac friend told me she appreciates gluten-free labels on foods, even ones that may seem obvious, because it gives her a level of comfort, but if you don't have a gluten allergy these labels don't mean much to you.

Low-Carb

Low-carb is not a definition of health. If you are trying to reduce carbohydrates, replacing them with processed low-carb options won't benefit you. Check the calorie content. Check the ingredients. In fact, a low-carb label on packaged foods may just be a red flag that the food is not healthy at all. If you want to reduce carbs, a better strategy would be to reduce processed foods all together, it will take you much further than replacing all carbohydrates with processed low-carb foods.

Multi-grain

If your bread is brown make sure it says 100% whole wheat as the first ingredient, otherwise you may be falling for marketing hype. A multi-grain label on breads, cereals and other packaged foods, like taco shells and granola bars, doesn’t equal healthy. It just means it is made with several types grains, which may include refined grains, which are not the healthiest choice. 

Enriched means that the nutrients that were removed during processing were added back in. These marketing buzzwords tell us very little about the health-status of the product. If anything the word enriched reveals that it is a processed food and maybe should be reduced or avoided. 

NON-GMO

I am not interested into getting into a GMO debate because people get fired up about this topic and I am middle child and my personality leans more towards making peace than inciting conflict. If you don't want to eat GMOs, then of course, you are free to make the food choices you think are best for you and your family.

However, food marketers manipulate the public by putting non-GMO labels on all kinds of products, all willy-nilly, even products that don't have a GMO alternative. They are hoping you don't know any better and will choose the the (usually) more expensive product labeled as non-GMO even though the product without the non-GMO label doesn't have GMOs either, because a GMO version doesn't even exist for that product type. They are preying on people's ignorance on the topic. 

Now excuse me while I enjoy my fat-free, organic, Gluten-free, low-carb, grain-free, non-GMO meal. Hah.

Now excuse me while I enjoy my fat-free, organic, Gluten-free, low-carb, grain-free, non-GMO meal. Hah.

Outsmart by the food companies by ignoring all marketing on the package and reading the nutrition label and the ingredient list for the truth about what is in a product. The ingredients are listed from highest content to lowest, so if the first ingredient is sugar, you know the product has more sugar than any of the other ingredient. This information can help you make a more informed decision regardless of marketing. Strive to eat whole foods from nature most of the time and make food decisions based on facts rather than marketing or fear tactics. 

Make sense? Need help with your nutrition strategy and developing healthier habits? Join my online nutrition program to lose weight and feel great for once and for all. It's not a quick fix, it's a lifestyle strategy for sustainable weight loss.

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BAD RUNNING ADVICE YOU CAN SAFELY IGNORE

We live in a wonderful time when all the answers to our questions are at our fingertips. Who was that actor with the face in the movie with the car? You know, that guy. These days we don't have to know or remember much. We can look up anything we need to know in mere seconds. A far cry from the days when my parents had a 20-book encyclopedia set as our only source of information inside the house. Today, we don't even have to type, our BFF Siri has all the answers. I imagine in the future, we will be able to just ask our questions into the open air as we walk down the street and the answers will be delivered instantly to our brains. 

The problem with so much readily available information is that it is left up to us to determine what is valuable and what is garbage. We all know that there's a lot of bad information out there. Some of it is well-meaning but misguided, some it outdated and some of it outright lies designed to mislead us. I'm here to help you sort through some of the bad running advice. Here is my list of bad running advice that you safely ignore. 

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GO HARD OR GO HOME

There seems to be a push lately for hard-core training. Go hard or go home. While hard-core determination or hard-core commitment is to be admired, don't confuse it with the intensity of your training. Your training program should be a mix of high intensity and low intensity workouts. In fact, a schedule of nothing but high intensity workouts will quickly lead to overtraining, burnout or worse, injury. Rest and recovery is as important in your training schedule as those high intensity days. In fact, most athletes will thrive on just one to two high intensity days per week. Be sure to schedule easier, enjoyable, lower intensity runs into your training cycle. A better piece of advice is to run hard on your hard days and run easy on your easy days. Runners often make the mistake of running too hard on easy days and not hard enough on hard days. 

PUSH PAST PAIN

Never ever (ever!) push through physical pain. Physical pain is your body's way of communicating to you that something is wrong. If something hurts, stop running before you make it worse. Sometimes we just need rest to heal, but if you keep pushing through physical pain, you can make it worse and put yourself out of commission for even longer. The important thing is to learn the difference between physical pain and discomfort. Better advice is to push through feeling tired, push through the burning sensation in your muscles, push through heavy breathing and mental discomfort, but never push through physical pain. I wrote a post on how to tell the difference between pain and discomfort. 

RUNNING IS BAD FOR YOUR KNEES

Ahh, my favorite piece of bad running advice. It often comes from well-meaning people who think they are trying to help. When Grandpa or a co-worker offers up this piece of bad advice, I assure them I am taking proper precautions to avoid any problems. The truth is a bad training plan can be bad for your knees. Runners who increase their mileage too quickly, run too fast for their abilities, don't rest enough and don't strength train may have knee (or other) problems. If you train responsibly, increase your mileage and intensity at the proper rate, include strength training and listen to your favorite running coach (that's me), then running is not bad for your knees. Bad training is bad for your knees.

PERFORM STATIC STRETCHING BEFORE RUNNING

Not long ago it was common practice to recommend static stretching (holding stretch for 30 seconds) before workouts. Today we know that stretching before you workout can actually hinder performance. A more effective use of time before your workout would be to perform a dynamic warm up to move the joints through the full range of motion. Here is a quick dynamic warm up to try before your next run. Better advice is to save the static stretches for after your runs. 

RUN FAST IN THE BEGINNING TO BANK TIME IN THE END WHEN YOU'RE TIRED

This doesn't work. It doesn't work on your long run and it certainly doesn't work on race day. Even if you feel great in the beginning and running faster than usual or planned, it is good idea to slow down in the first half of your run to a sustainable pace. If you feel great after the first half, feel free to pick up the pace and finish strong. It never works the other way around. You can't bank time in the beginning to finish strong. Better advice to always work towards achieving a negative split, this means you run the second half faster than the first. Trust me on this one. 

YOU HAVE TO RUN A CERTAIN PACE TO BE A REAL RUNNER

My personal pet peeve is when someone tells you that you have to run at least a (insert arbitrary pace here) mile in order to be considered a real runner. I call BS! If you strap on a pair of running shoes and hit the road, if you're out there, you're a runner. Period. If you take walk breaks, you're still a runner. The great thing about the running community is that they are largely supportive. I find the jerks and naysayers are often on the sidelines voicing their opinions while not even doing it themselves. Better advice:

“If you run, you are a runner. It doesn’t matter how fast or how far. It doesn’t matter if today is your first day or if you’ve been running for twenty years. There is no test to pass, no license to earn, no membership card to get. You just run.”
— John Bingham

 

YOU CAN EAT WHATEVER YOU WANT, YOU'LL JUST RUN IT OFF 

We don't train in a bubble. Everything matters. Your nutrition directly affects your running performance. If you consistently eat like crap, it will catch up with you. That's not to say there isn't room in your diet for treats and indulgences, but if you want to look, feel and perform your best, nutrition matters. The old adage is true, you can't out train a bad diet. Better advice is to eat to perform. I wrote a post about why sometimes you gain weight while marathon training and how to avoid it.

YOU SHOULD CARBO-LOAD BEFORE YOUR 5K

If you're looking for an excuse to eat four servings of pasta, I'm sorry to tell you that your upcoming 5K isn't it. Carbo-loading can be a an effective tool for long distance runners who need to increase their glycogen stores before an endurance race. Even then, a more effective strategy is to slowly increase carbs in the days leading up to race day. Better advice to fuel for a 5K is to eat proper portions of a mix of high quality carbohydrates, fats and protein most of the time to look, feel and perform your best. 

YOU CAN REST WHEN YOU'RE DEAD

Rest is as important in your training cycle as your workouts. You get stronger and faster during rest, not during the workout. If you never rest, you never allow your body the time it needs to repair, recover and build. You will eventually stall your progress if you don't rest. You'll risk overtraining, burnout and injury. Resting isn't laziness, it's an important part of the plan. Better advice is to schedule rest days into your training cycle. You can walk, stretch, foam roll or do other low-intensity activities on rest days, but don't neglect them. 

SAVE MONEY BY BUYING YOUR RUNNING SHOES ONLINE

When you're a new runner your local running store is a valuable resource available to help you start your running journey. The employees at these stores are knowledgeable runners and coaches that can help you choose the correct shoe for your individual needs. You shouldn't buy shoes because of their pretty colors, you need to buy the shoes that will support you in the unique way that you run. You can test out the shoes before you buy them and have access to a coach or knowledgeable associate to ask questions. Choosing the right shoe is an important decision. You will pay a little more at a local store than buying last year's model at a discount website, but by supporting your local running store you help support your community and the businesses and families within them. 

What's the worst running advice you've ever received?

Need help with training or nutrition? I am accepting new in-person clients in Fort Worth and online nutrition clients. Let's chat about your goals and how I can help you achieve them. 

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Core + Cardio circuit for Runners

Welcome to the latest edition of workout Wednesday, when each week I share a running or runners-specific strength training workout. This week we are covering core plus a burst of cardio all in less than 10 minutes. 

This is a great workout to fit in before your run. Runners will benefit from a strong core and this workout has a hip abduction move to help build needed hip strength in lateral movements. 

Core + Cardio circuit for runners

Core + Cardio circuit for runners

ELBOW PLANK WITH ALTERNATING CRAWLS

Begin in a forearm plank position. Position your elbows on the floor and your shoulders directly over your elbows. Your body should be in a straight line parallel to the floor. Engage your core while breathing normally. Be careful not to sink your hips or raise them in the air. If you need to rest, break it up into 15 second increments. More on proper plank form in this blog post Bring your knee out to the side and up towards your elbow. Repeat on other side and continue for 30 seconds. 

 

SIDE PLANK WITH HIP ABDUCTION

side plank with hip abduction

side plank with hip abduction

With a straight arm, lift yourself up into a side plank. Be sure that your wrist, elbow and shoulder are stacked in a straight line, so your arm is not angled. Perform leg lifts with your top leg for 30 seconds. Repeat on other side for 30 seconds. 

ALTERNATING MOUNTAIN CLIMBERS

This is the cardio part of the workout. In a straight arm plank position, bring in your knee to your elbow and quickly alternate between the right and left sides. Move as quickly as possible while maintaining proper form.

STRAIGHT ARM PLANK WITH ALTERNATING LEG LIFTS

In a straight arm plank position, make sure your wrists, elbows and shoulders are aligned in a straight row. Brace your core while breathing normally. Lift your left leg while engaging your glutes (butt muscles) and slowly lower. Lift your right leg and lower. Continue to alternate sides for 30 seconds. 

Complete the circuit three times through with little to no rest between exercises. Rest for 30 seconds to one minute between circuits. 

Give this a try before your next run and let me know how it goes.

 

Need help with strength training for runners? I am taking on new clients in Fort Worth, TX. 

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5 Simple Ways to Get a Jump Start on Your Fat Loss Goals

I write a lot about healthy habits on this blog because habits are the building blocks of a healthy lifestyle. Once you develop healthy habits, you no longer have to rely on willpower or motivation. It's freedom from deprivation. It takes work, but it is worth it. If you need help, guidance or accountability in building healthy habits, I have a few spots open in my online nutrition program.  

If you have fat loss goals, there is no better time to get started than now. You don't have to overhaul your whole life, you can start by incorporating some simple healthy habits to get a jump start on your fat loss goals. The idea behind healthy habits is that they work within your already busy lifestyle. Life is probably never going to get less busy, let's do what we can right now. 

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It's autumn and while most people are starting to plan their holiday parties, it's a great time to get a jump start on your fat loss goals. Why not get a head start on those new year resolutions? These are five simple things you can do today that will position you for fat loss as you go into the holidays and the new year. You don't have to wait until January 1st to get started. Once the new year rolls around you'll have already developed the habits that will position you to achieve your fat loss goals.

EAT YOUR VEGGIES

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Eat a serving of veggies at every meal and snack. Vegetables are high in nutrients and low in calories. Veggies keep your digestive tract running smoothly and can reduce the risk of heart disease. Choose a wide variety of colorful vegetables to take in the micronutrients that help you feel your best. When you feel your best you're more likely make better choices in other areas of your life. Here's my link to a practical guide to eating more fruits and veggies.

 

PRIORITIZE PROTEIN

Prioritize a protein source at every meal and snack. Protein helps you feel full at each meal. Protein has a higher thermic effect than carbs and fat which means you burn more calories just to process and digest protein. Your body needs protein to build and maintain lean muscle, which is essential for healthy fat loss. Aim for .7 grams of protein per pound of body weight. If you haven't been keeping track, this is likely more than you've been taking in. It pays off to pay attention. Here's a resource I wrote about eating more protein in your diet.

WALK EVERY SINGLE DAY

Walking is a fantastic way to increase your daily energy expenditure. The great thing about walking is that it is low impact, so you can do it every single day. You don't necessarily have to head out for an hour long walk (although this would be a great idea too). You can add in additional walking into your day by parking farther away from the entrances of building, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, taking five minute walk breaks every hour and always returning the shopping cart to the store (you should do this anyway). It all counts. It may not seem like much, but it all adds up and makes a difference when working towards fat loss. The little things add up to big results, don't discount them. How to make exercise a daily habit.

STRENGTH TRAIN

You'll notice when I talk about losing weight, I always specify fat loss instead of weight loss. Why? Because when you are losing weight, you want to take care that you are losing fat and not muscle. If you lose muscle, you may see a lower number on the scale, but muscle loss is not good. Muscle loss slows your metabolism because muscle requires more energy than fat to maintain. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn during the day. If you lose muscle it's harder to keep the weight off. 

You can combat muscle loss during weight loss by prioritizing protein and strength training. You don't have to hit the gym for an hour a day or train to be a muscle-bound mama (or papa), you can do some simple bodyweight or dumbbell exercises right in your own home to build and maintain lean muscle. Aim for just three 20 minute full-body strength training sessions a week at first. It goes a long way for healthy fat loss. Here's an idea for a quick and effective strength training workout or explore my workout archives more more options.

EAT SLOWLY UNTIL 80% FULL

This may be the simplest but hardest to execute advice for fat loss. It takes a lot of practice to get it right. Eat slowly because it takes time for your body to send the signal to your brain that you're full. If you scarf down your dinner down in three minutes flat, it's easy to overeat. I am as guilty as any.

Eat slowly. Put your fork down between bites. Take a sip of water between bites. Count your chews, can you chew 20 times, 30? (chewing helps with digestion and bloating too). This is harder than it sounds. If you're anything like me, it's a habit to rush through your meal so you can get on with your day.

Savor your food. When you eat slowly you can start to feel fullness signals while you eat (not after once it's already too late). Stop eating before you feel overly full. Listening to your body is the one of the best ways to control calorie intake. If we learn to tune in, our bodies will tell us what it needs. It can be hard. We forget. We rush. We scarf.  Eating slow is a habit worth cultivating. The good news is that we eat several times a day, so we have plenty of opportunities to practice. Here's a post I wrote in more detail about mindful eating. 

Notice I didn't recommend an extreme diet or joining your local boot camp six days a week. It's the small things that are sustainable over time that make the biggest difference when it comes to lifestyle change. Get really good at being consistent. If you spend the rest of the year cultivating these healthy habits, in the new year you'll be 10 steps ahead with a solid foundation.

Have questions? Need guidance or accountability? I'd love to help. I have a few spots open in my online nutrition and habits program. Join us today!

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